The details behind the antitrust lawsuits against Google

Three American lawsuits against the company could be the biggest anti-trust cases in a generation

CORRECTS TO A GROUP OF 35 STATES AS WELL AS THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA AND TERRITORIES OF GUAM AND PUERTO RICO FILED, INSTEAD OF 38 STATES FILE - This Oct. 20, 2015, file photo, shows signage outside Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif. A group of 35 states as well as the District of Columbia and the territories of Guam and Puerto Rico filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Google on Thursday, Dec. 17, 2020, alleging that the search giant has an illegal monopoly over the online search market that hurts consumers and advertisers. The lawsuit, announced by Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, was filed in federal court in Washington, D.C. by states represented by bipartisan attorneys general. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File)

A group of US attorneys general from 35 states filed an antitrust complaint against Alphabet's Google on Thursday, making it the third lawsuit against the online search and advertising company to be filed this autumn.

Why are dozens of US states suing Google?

Each of the lawsuits focuses on different aspects of Google’s business operations.

Thursday’s lawsuit is focused on Google's search business and advertising, and what attorneys general call an attempt by Google to use exclusionary agreements to dominate newer technology, such as smart speakers, televisions and cars.

"Google is preventing competitors in the voice-assistant market from reaching consumers through connected cars, which stand to be a significant way the internet is accessed in the near future," Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said.

Another lawsuit filed on Wednesday focuses on Google’s dominance in digital advertising.

The multi-state lawsuit led by the Texas attorney general alleged that Google had reached an illegal deal with Facebook to maintain a hold on the lucrative digital advertising market.

What about the other federal lawsuit earlier in autumn?

The US Justice Department and 11 Republican state attorneys general sued Google in October in the most significant monopolisation case in more than two decades.

The case focused on Google’s agreements with Apple and other device makers to make Google the default search engine.

The attorneys general who filed the lawsuit on Thursday are requesting that their case become part of the lawsuit led by the Justice Department.

What does this mean for Google users?

The lawsuit could result in accountability for Alphabet’s actions in possible monopolisation and exclusionary agreements.

Depending on how the cases develop, it could force Google into a tough position in which the US government would insist on greater competition in spaces the company controls, such as search, online advertising and digital services.

This would mean a greater number of choices for users.

Are there other global efforts to rein in Google?

Yes, in the EU, particularly. The organisation's legal teams have held the tech giant accountable for monopolisation, exclusionary tactics and data privacy issues.

In rare acts of regulation, the EU ordered the company to make changes and adjust practices in past years.

The EU has fined the company billions of euros in antitrust penalties, including a record fine of €4.34 billion ($5.32bn).

How significant are these cases in the US?

The US lawsuits, in addition to two filed against social media giant Facebook this month, promise to be the biggest antitrust cases in a generation.

They look as significant as the lawsuit against Microsoft filed in 1998, which was credited with clearing the way for the explosive growth of the internet.

The lawsuits also mark a rare moment of agreement between Democrats and the Trump administration, whose criticisms seem to focus less on antitrust concerns and more on allegations that the platforms stifle conservative voices.